372 Go On Vigorously


Charles and his Privy Council stretched life and limb to equip and pay for a new army to pull the king out of this fire. The Junto and Scots did everything they could to keep him in it. The result came in at Newburn.

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When Charles got home and sat down for his evening beans on toast with Mrs King, with Worcestershire cause, of course, and when he had simmered down after ranting to HM about his day at the office, he was probably forced to admit that this latest parliament had not been one of his life’s high points. He decided that he really didn’t need grief from any other direction for a while he’d had enough, and so he sent news to Scotland that the Scottish parliament, due to meet after it’s long prorogation, was to be prorogued again.

Well, back on the theme that the Scottish Revolution is super radical in constitutional terms in its own right, the MPs assembled in Edinburgh anyway. Now the Scots had a long tradition of resistance theory, resisting the Ungodly king – back to George Buchanan, who ironically had been James’ tutor – and who apparently took note of the old saying, Spare the Rod spoil the Child, which gave James nightmares to his dying day. George had argued that if a king did not live up to his contract – in terms of promoting the true, protestant religion, he could be discarded. And the parliament, rather than going home as commanded by their king, had something of a full and frank exchange of views about the topic. Now they stopped well short of anything like deposing Charles, but they did decide they were perfectly entitled to go ahead with the parliament, off their own bat. And in days it enacted a constitutional revolution. The Lords of the Articles, through which mechanism the king had controlled the agenda, were deleted. It passed a Triennial Act – a parliament must be held every three years at least, whether the king called it or not. It ratified the acts of the General Assembly and the National Covenant. They appointed an Executive Committee, replacing any idea of the Privy Council, and hopped off home. All of this assumed that the Acts passed were fully legal, and did not need royal assent. Now that, my friends, is a revolution.

When the National Covenant committed its people to defending royal power it appears to have been fibbing. Under Argyle’s leadership, the committee launched a campaign into the Highlands and North East, removing any potential sources of opposition; the Catholic Earl of Huntly fled to England for refuge. This was no doubt sensible; but Argyle’s dominance was now irritating the already flaky support of Montrose. Hold that thought, and pop it away somewhere you can get at it quickly.

If there had been any doubt that another war was in the offing – which there really wasn’t – the June parliament sent it to the vasty deeps. Charles had already convened his 8 man Scotland committee after the failure of the Short parliament; he still kept discussions close and away from the main PC, which they found deeply frustrating given the subject’s importance; the Earl of Northumberland complained that Charles

Communicates nothing of the affairs in Scotland, so we are as great strangers to all those proceedings as if we lived in Constantinople.[1]

So, the very evening of the Dissolution, 5th May 1640, Charles and his committee for Scottish Affairs met, with sombre faces and heavy hearts. What to do? Henry Vane Senior sat in one corner, taking careful notes of the discussion; the topic was what next – negotiate or war, flight or fight. Strafford leaned forwards and brusquely cut through the witterings of Laud and the committee with all the force and intensity for which Charles valued him:

Go vigorously or let them alone – no defensive war…Go on with a vigorous war, as you first designed; loose and absolved from all rules of government, being reduced to extreme necessity, everything is to be done that power might admit…they refusing, you are acquitted towards God and Man, you have an army in Ireland you may employ here to reduce this kingdom. Confident as anything under heaven Scotland shall not hold out five months. One summer well employed will do it. [2]

This was a big moment – both in political terms and for Strafford personally. Put this thought also somewhere you can get at it easily. Charles needed little persuading. So it was to be war – preparations went ahead as well as might be, though of course nothing had changed last time as far as money was concerned; and in fact it was worse. The treasury had been emptied by last year’s debacle. No one was happy to pay Ship Money any more, nor a second bout of coat and conduct money – after all they hadn’t paid the first one. Recruitment was even harder, and the intake even grubbier and less well equipped; these problems kept delaying assembly of the army until July 1st. Meanwhile the government resorted to a combination of wishful thinking and forceful and borderline legal actions; well not borderline, over the line really. Charles hoped his rapprochement with Spain would deliver him an army of experienced veterans – which was optimistic given that just a couple of years ago Olivares had mooted sending 100,000 men to Ireland to free it from the English crown once and forever. But even if the possibility had ever been there, a rebellion in Catalonia nixed it stone dead. The Spaniards had failed Philip again. When would he learn?

Well, it just so happens that £130,000 worth of Spanish bullion was sitting in the Tower of London, waiting to be minted into Spanish currency. So the Treasury borrowed it to pay the bills, promising the Spanish faithfully to repay the money in 6 months’ time. The merchants of London gasped with shock at the damage to their reputation. Next, an East Indiaman arrived packed with pepper; so the government half-inched that too and sold it for about 30% of its proper value, or pepper value, arf arf. The London Merchants held their collective head in their collective hands. Then Strafford had another scheme – to debase the currency to a quarter of its face value by issuing copper coins. The London Merchants threw their arms in the air and ran around like ET on speed crying blue murder, and the scheme was hurriedly withdrawn. The long and short was that quite a lot of cash was raised, by means that were undeniably dodgy.

Meanwhile the failure of the short parliament doesn’t seem to have given Charles pause for reflection that maybe he was driving the coach & 4 of state too hard. It was the convention that when parliament was dissolved, the Convocation of the church went with it. On this occasion, Charles decided custom and practice was inconvenient to him, and therefore he broke the rules, and had Convocation continue, because he and Laud had 17 more canons to add to the canon of canon law. Pun, ladies and gentlemen boys and girls, pun intended, and I’m feeling a little smug. The 17 new canons were delightfully and blithely blind to any worries about royal authority or Arminian rites; ministers were now to affirm the divine right of kings, communion tables were to be placed altar wise and railed, all that sort of jazz on which we’ve spilled so much ink and milk already. Worst of all there was a new oath to be sworn by all ministers. It became known as the Etcetera Oath, and I’m going to quote a bit of it. They were to swear not to attempt to alter

The government of this church by archbishops, bishops, deans and archdeacons etc

Well hang on, What do you mean, ‘etc’? What might etc come to include then? ‘Oh well we thought having an English Pope would be a good idea – you know, Archbishop, etc.’ The Oath was fiercely opposed. In the south east Midlands, 27 ministers met at the Swan Inn at Kettering to discuss the oath. Together they came to a conclusion

Never…to take the oath, but rather to lose their livings[3]

All the canons raised a storm as 17,500 copies were printed and distributed so everyone knew them in some detail. Meanwhile another publication hit the streets of London; illegally as it happens printed in Amsterdam and finding its passage by the secret ways only ragged people know. This publication would have been less to Charles and Laud’s liking than the canons, in fact it was highly suggestive:

Is it not now high time…to stand up as one man to defend themselves and their country…so the king reform himself?…[4]

A suggestion that the ordinary people should force the king’s hand, correct his incorrect views. Radical in 1640, most radical. Edward I would have eaten the nation’s collective liver, raw, without HP sauce. The peasants were revolting.

Resistance, then was growing, and growing at a number of levels, not just ministers of the church. The City of London remained obdurate, despite the royalist inclinations of its Lord Mayor, Richard Gurney, but Charles piled on the pressure. Given the refusal of the London Common Council to offer a loan, he went for the divide and rule approach; the Aldermen were told to list the richest men in their Wards, so that Charles could levy a forced loan on the individuals. Only seven aldernen had the courage to refuse; 4 made a public stand in front of the courts. One of those was a merchant and puritan called Isaac Pennington, a warden of the Fishmongers, but making his money from the Levant trade. He had been an MP in the Short Parliament, and though he would escape punishment, he was increasingly a link between parliament and the merchants of the city, an example of the growing importance of the middling sort in the politics. Another, Thomas Soame proudly faced the King’s Bench down and announced he would not be an informer, because he had been:

An honest man before he was an Alderman, and desired to be an honest man still[5]

His declaration was widely reported. All of these feelings of discontent reached the ears and hearts of the Apprentice boys.

Now there will come a time when we need to talk about London Apprentices, because you are going to hear a lot of them. You are probably aware that for many centuries a standard part of the process of growing up and getting a position in trade, was to become an apprentice. They were pretty much always  young men – until 1650s when more women began to become apprenticed in trades like millinery. The normal gig was to be signed up into a tradesman’s household at the age of 17, for a 7 year stint. While an apprentice, they received very few wages, but were given full board; and could not marry until their term came to an end. At which point they might join a guild, or become a citizen.

Young men came from all over the country to find a position in the greatest opportunity of all, London; there could be around 4,000 apprentices in the city at any one time. They used a network of kin and family connections that could find a contact in the city and place their charge in a reputable household.

Trouble is, they were often not very reputable themselves; or at least not very reputable when they got together. They all had a holiday on Shrove Tuesday, and that was often the day to stay inside and lock your doors, because it often ended in a riot; in 1617 they got into the Cockpit Theatre in Drury Lane, wrecked and ransacked to their hearts content until three of them were shot; when the party carried on to Finsbury, where they broke open the jail. Ah what it is to be young. All good honest fun.

So the thing was, then, that Apprentices could be stirred up into political trouble, and people kind of knew that; but many of them were genuinely radical of their own account, and again the link between political protest and resistance to religious change is strong. They’d rioted in defence of John Lilburne as he’d been whipped behind that cart’s arse in 1639, and blamed Laud; and as the Short Parliament was still sitting, a rumour reached the PC that if parliament was dissolved, the London Apprentices were planning a riot. Not that I’m telling you that Charles had a sophisticated secret service worthy of 1984; someone had noticed a load of broadsheets plastered on the London walls saying ‘hey let’s go and attack Archbishop Laud if parliament is dissolved’. Didn’t really even need to add 2 & 2, really. When 11th May dawned then, the streets were packed with Apprentice boys, somewhere between 50 and 1,200 of them. They marched on Lambeth Palace, home of the ABC in London of course, determined to get their hands on William Laud himself. As they marched, they were encouraged by a 16 year old lad, a mariner called Thomas Bensted, and an apprentice called John Archer. All together they marched, and young Thomas Bensted became their drummer boy and they matched their feet to the beat of a drum.

When they arrived at the palace, they found that Laud was no an idiot – he’d already legged it across the river to the safety of Whitehall. Eventually the Apprentices dispersed, shouting loudly they’d find Laud somewhere sometime, and maybe the chaos would have been over. But instead the militia chose that moment to arrest a bunch of the ones they identified as ringleaders, and sling them into White Lion Prison in Southwark – among them our out of work mariner, John Archer. Well, that started them up again; on 13th May another riot broke out and White Lion Prison was broken into and inmates released. John Archer though was no longer there – the king had ordered him moved to a safer prison, the Tower of London; the Lord Mayor Gurney ordered out the Trained Bands, who dispersed the riots and restored calm.

John Archer had been taken to the Tower for a specific purpose – to be tortured on the rack to reveal other ringleaders – I say other because John was thought to be one. Judicial torture was illegal in England, unless ordered by the king – so the order held Charles’ signature. Archer is the last person to be submitted to legal torture in England – I feel I have told you this before, but maybe it’s in a members’ podcast series, the one about the Common law and British Constitution. Anyway, once tortured, and whatever could be extracted, had been extracted, Archer was executed. Alongside him and others was our 16 year old Thomas Bensted, whose drumming was ruled to have whipped up the crowd and therefore been treason. News spread out, as news wikl; Edward Neale wrote from Shelley in Essex to tell his fellow parishioners that

They would shortly rise in the Countrie, there being no lawes now, and the first houses they would pull down should be the houses of those that tooke part with the Bishops

There’s a couple of things about this gobbet; Neale was specifically thinking about his parson, and encouraging opposition to his opinions; and yet again, the close link between religion and protest, and even violent uprising.

As Charles and the Privy Council struggled to raise a new army a propaganda war was going on, a war of words. The Covenanters had been spectacularly good at it in Scotland, and their talents did not desert them now. Books and pamphlets were printed in Edinburgh and Amsterdam and smuggled into England; and from there spread out into the provinces – our 27 ministers at the Swan Inn at Kettering also had a pamphlet outlining grievances from Scotland read out at the meeting, no doubt receiving wise nods and grunts of assent in return. The Covenanters resolutely pitched their message as conservatively as possible – their case was about religion, not about the king’s secular authority in any way – they didn’t want to scare the horses of the English royalists. Just yet.  And they stressed a common cause with the English – they both faced a popish plot, led by the King’s evil counsellors Laud and Strafford. But a careful reading would be enough to see that they were in fact very radical; they pointed out that as an absentee king, Charles was breaking a contract of kingship, which required kings be ‘rightly informed’ by their people.  You might notice this shared little with the idea of the divine right of kings. They protested that they would never go to war except in self defence and provoked by English action – on which more later – for

The defence of our religion, liberties and lives

Charles took longer to get going. The propaganda he started to produce showed that he understood the kind of objection Lauds reforms were provoking. He made sure to commission work from Scottish Calvinists or the few remaining English Calvinist bishops. Trouble was the kind of thing they produced was not ideally designed to convince ordinary people – coming in the form of an expensive 430 page book. But there was a strategy at last; they were seeking to give the elites the ammunition to combat the claims of the Covenanters and spread the word. They were very careful not to give way to populist appeals to anti Scottish prejudice; Charles was after all a proud king of Scots and well as English, Welsh and Irish. But many of his supporters and ministers had fewer qualms about that. There’s a man called Nehemiah Wallington who kept a very famous diary during these years. He was a Londoner, and an artisan, a wood turner in the Turmers Guild; his diary gives a are insight into how ordinary people saw events, albeit very much from the puritan angle. He noted in his diary how Scots were mocked and scoffed at by some, calling them rebels, and that

Books were made of them and ballard songs by every rascole at the corners of our street

How effective Charles propaganda was, is debatable; amongst the Godly, as we have said, the minister Thomas Case in Norfolk was probably more typical, who preached a sermon

For the good success of the Scotch rebels

I assume he’s not talking about non conformist whisky either. On increasing occasions, public articulation of resistance theory appeared in English pulpits too; there was also of course an English tradition, back in the days of John Ponet and the Marian Persecutions. In August 1640, when the King had left for the North to put down the Scottish rebellion – and in fact was facing them at Newburn – one Calybute Downing delivered a sermon to the Honourable Artillery Company. We should take a couple of minutes to talk about said Artillery Company, because in the web of allegiances and politics that was the mighty City of London, it was to play a role. It had been established in 1611, but had its roots in an Elizabethan militia formed to fight the Catholic threat from Europe, and was essentially a body of voluntary infantry. It never lost this spirit of protestant patriotism.[6] It held a number of notable merchants, many of whom would remain at the side of the king throughout – Marmaduke Rawden, for example, would be with the King at Oxford and defend Basing House against all comers for the royal cause.

In the end Rawden would leave because the Company was increasingly dominated by puritans; its President by 1640 was the puritan militant and future regicide John Venn. And it’s Captain was Philip Skippon. Skippon would have a long career in the service of parliament and Commonwealth, he’d be a key figure in the control of London, and one of Cromwell’s Major Generals in 1657. By 1640 already had a reputation as a brave and tough soldier.  He’d fought from his early 20s in the Palatinate for the protestant cause, and like his later boss, Thomas Fairfax and adversary Lord Hotham, had fought under Lord de Vere. He’d married Maria Comes there, and together they had a family of eight children. He’d fought at Breda in 1625 and fought off 200 Spanish with thirty pikemen by push of pike, while having been shot in the neck so you know this is the stuff of Ripping Yarns, Biggles and all that. He returned to England by 1634 to inherit a small estate from an Uncle. Basically, the likes of Venn and Skippon found in the Honourable Artillery Company a place during the personal rule to meet discreetly with other reformers to get together, exercise arms and swap opinions and discuss tactics.

So just as it would cease to be a good home for royalists like Rawden, it was the perfect place for radical clerics like Calybute Downing to speak.  He argued that it was the king that bore responsibility for the state of the nation, that religion trumped the state, and declared that

When a party in power breaks the laws of the land, subjects must ‘make a stand’.

This was a message of resistance too rich for 1640, and Downing had to flee London for his pains, taking refuge on the Earl of Warwick’s estate in Essex.

London then in particular was awash with rumour, opinion, arguments, propaganda even antagonism; the pulpits are an extraordinarily and highly effective channel of communication for all views, but the alehouses were equally so. Charles was given to arguing that state policy was a matter of the arcane mysteries of the Monarch. He’d have been horrified if he’s spent a few minutes on the streets of London.

What of the Junto, and their meetings at Warwick House in Holborn? Information is shadowy, but it seems they were talking. Not just with each other, but with the Scots. Now that the first objective had been achieved, parliament had failed, there must be a second parliament, where Charles would be helpless to resist and forced to a settlement. Now lets us not beat around the bush; Warwick, Saye and Sele, Brooke, Essex – were essentially talking treason here. They wanted the King defeated; they wanted the Scottish knife at the royal throat – a royal victory against the Covenanters at this point would be unthinkable, unthinkable.  Then with a Scottish army in the north they could use that leverage to roll back Arminianism, tie the king into a re-established constitution which would make the settlement irreversible. There could be no way back once done, because few trusted the king to stick by his promises any more.

The junto therefore wanted the Scots to attack before Charles was ready. Argyll and the Covenanters had of course grandly declared that they would be purely defensive so they were reluctant; so how to justify an attack on England? Both parties found a useful ally in one Thomas Saville.

History is by and large personal. There are lots of things that make us act in certain ways, and some of them are not connected with great events like liberty or the rights of the people, or the rise of the Middling sort and the advent of capitalism. The Saville family were a Yorkshire family, and not well enamoured of the Wentworths – in fact they’d been having a good old barney for some time about which family was first on the invite list in God’s Own County. Maybe it’s that which spurred Thomas Saville on – or maybe it was indeed simply a love of the English constitution. Either way, it was through him that the Junto Peers sent a letter to Argyll and the Covenanters. The letter promised support should they invade, and urged them to do so before Charles was ready. But they stopped short of saying they would fight for the Scots – that would be out and out treason. For Argyll this was not enough. He needed something more specific. It seems Argyll then received a new letter from said Junto Lords – promising military support too. If this is true, it also seems the Junto knew nothing of it – because Saville had forged their signatures[7]. Saville is an interesting case – despite this, he will end up on the King’s side, ennobled as Earl of Sussex. After Strafford was gone – co-incidence or cause? Important not to confuse correlation with causation obviously.

Meanwhile, more above board, rumours circulated that the Warwick house peers were preparing a petition. And here is a neat illustration of the practical importance of knowing your history, should you be planning rebellion – the reckoned they’d found a statute from the 1258 parliament that 12 Peers could summon a Parliament. So, the Junto was preparing such a document.

But by August, the King felt he was ready, or ready as he’d ever be. His army was more manky than the previous effort sadly; there’s evidence that the Yorkshire trained bands, for example, were deliberately persuaded to drag their feet so they’d not arrive at the party on time, and many duly did not. However, for future references for the history of Yorkshire and the Civil wars, one of the most influential Yorkshire Gentry family, the Fairfaxes, were part of the army, as they had been in the first Bishops War. Thomas Fairfax will be the general of parliamentary forces – here is evidence again, should you need any, that allegiances could have gone either way when the balloon goes up – not one was even imagining civil war yet – or none but the most extreme, anyway.

There was a lot of lawlessness from the soldiers; some of the officers appeared to be rather more worried about their own men than they were about the Scots; Austin Woolwrych writes that we only know of two officers actually killed by their own men. I mean – ‘only’. Is this common? I have to say it could be difficult to fight a battle effectively while looking over your shoulder. On the way up there were numerous examples of violence – prisons broken open, altar rails smashed.

Commanders were again a problem, with illness playing a role. There is incidentally a definite role played by illness in the Civil wars; it’s difficult to keep up but the Earl of Northumberland was ill and unavailable, Strafford was made general instead but he had gout, so he handed over to Viscount Conway. Fairfax and Cromwell will both suffer from extended bouts of illness at key times too. Anyway, just by the by.

So Viscount Conway planned to defend England along the line of the River Tyne, although much of his army was back at York. Across the border a few miles away was Alexander Leslie and the Covenanters; and on the 3rd August 1640, they are in committee – Argyll and the Committee of Estates, and senior army commanders. At the meeting it is solemnly decided that this time they could not wait for the English to attack – they must get their retaliation in first. Not everyone agreed; Montrose and a group of peers responded by drawing up and signing the Cumbernauld Band; a rather vague bond between them to fight for king and covenant but to resist, and I quote, the ’particular and indirect practicing of a few’. Hmm. Wonder who they are thinking of – Argyll maybe? Maybe things going too far and fast for them? Possibly maybe perhaps. You might like o know that I played hockey against Cumbernauld Town team once as a posh English student at St Andrews. Scariest game of my life to have to say, it lives with me still.

But cross the border Leslie did on 20th August while Charles was still on the road from London to York, and they prayed and sang as they marched. In their hearts they hoped to receive a welcome from many English, common cause sort of thing, and were dismayed that they did not; but they did impress with their restraint, paying for good that sort of thing. That will get mighty strained over time, but initially they make an effort.

Leslie was bold – he bypassed Berwick with its garrison and struck towards the Tyne, aiming to force the river and threaten Newcastle, and to march round Newcastle to attack its undefended underbelly, the south. As he marched a group of 12 peers, rather than focussing on fighting with their king, were incarcerated at Bedford House on the Strand in London, together drawing up that petition to the king – the likes of Warwick, Saye and Sele, Essex, Brooke, Bedford. We’ll talk of that in a mo, but distressingly enough for Charles on his way to the war he received a massive petition from the people of Yorkshire, asking for a new parliament.

The English Commander Conway guessed correctly that Leslie was seeking to cross the Tyne; he guessed wrong that he’d do that 20 miles upstream at Hexham which is where Conway put his main force. In fact Leslie did so much closer to Newcastle at Newburn. They overwhelmed a small English force there, which therefore became the first Scottish victory on English soil, and not without trying I might say, since 1388 and the battle of Chevy Chase. Which has also created a ballad and also many hundreds of years later helped give a Comedian a pen name. Anyway back in 1640, Attack became a rout, the English abandoned Newcastle in a panic and withdrew towards York – there was now no line the English could hold north of the vale of York. Leslie quickly reached Durham, where lies England’s most magnificent cathedral, which Leslie’s fellow countryman Walter would of course describe as ‘Half Church of God, half castle ‘gainst the Scot’.

Events meanwhile had moved on. Pym and Oliver St John had crafted their 1258 petition under the eyes of the Earl of Bedford; and then the 12 Peers had signed it and sent it to the Privy Council. The petition gave a gruff summary of all the things that were wrong with the nation – including the war itself – and demanded a parliament so that the author of these ills could be brought to trial, and the two kingdoms united against the threat of popery. Said authors of ills were not specified, but if you were to insert Strafford and Laud well if the cap fits and all that.

Within a few days Charles’ mail bag was bulging and his advisors were in shock; there was not just the petition of the 12 Peers, but a petition from 10,000 Londoners demanding parliament, and a letter from the Scots making a respectful supplication to the king, asking for a treaty through which peace might be arrived at, with the agreement of an English parliament. It is not a co-incidence these all these came together; the Petition of 12 Peers spookily found its way onto the streets of London; to be brutal, Charles was surrounded by people sailing a tack very close indeed to the wind of treason, and probably luffing substantially. There was communication between the Junto and the Scots, through Saye and Sele’s son, Nathaniel Fiennes. Fiennes gave the Scots intelligence about the king’s forces; and surely that has to be treason doesn’t it? And he also gave advice on how best to work with the peers for a common outcome. I’m not a lawyer but surely – guilty as charged m’lud.

Charles and Strafford though were inclined to be bullish, bullish was Strafford’s default setting; Charles fired off a series of letters to his Privy Councillors back in good old London town that arrived smelling slightly of sulphur from the king’s furious breath as he berated them for their lack of resolve and forcefulness in trying to extract money from the City. But really; outside of firebrands such as Strafford, the peers around Charles in York knew a dead duck when they saw one. Charles still had 16,000 men under arms in York, but they were costing him £40,000 a month he didn’t have. Also not only were the Scots camped on English soil, but Newcastle was mighty significant. You may have heard the definition of something super pointless as ‘sending coals to Newcastle’. The expression reflects the fact that almost all London’s coal came from that city. Well, if the Scots so chose, not any more it wouldn’t – and London without the means of heating their houses as winter approached was not an attractive prospect. The Scots not only had close control of the capital’s heating supply, but of the king’s short and curlies.

Still Charles was determined to keep his pecker up and pointing firmly at the rebels. To dodge the parliament demanded by the peers while seeming to fulfil the requirements of the 1258 Act, he called a council of Peers at York, a Magnum Consilium if you like. Just like Billy the Conq. When they assembled on 24th September, his opening speech contained a mixture of reluctant acceptance of his situation and outraged defiance. On the one hand he announced that a parliament would be called for November. On the other hand he expected his great men, his peers of the realm here assembled, to gather round and help him throw these rebels out of their country. Isn’t that what peers of the realm were for?

For so long as the Scotch army remains in England I think no man will counsel me to disband mine; for that would be an unspeakable loss to all this part of the kingdom by subjecting them to the greedy appetite of the rebels, besides the unspeakable dishonour that would thereby fall upon the nation

Well, he was soon to find out that many of his great men were very prepared to speak the unspeakable. Not Strafford of course; in him fire and brimstone had found a home and he tore into anyone who tried to describe the Scots as anything other but rebels. Charles’s mindset through this period has been described by Conrad Russel as a ‘flight from reality’. Once again, he was unable to see this situation through any other lens than his own; his deep sense of what it meant to be a monarch, his sense of honour, his incapability to understand the strength of feeling amongst his opponents, branding them simply as malignant rebels, and his determination to follow the dictates of his conscience and nowt else. In Strafford he found a man who set himself the task of being the indispensable ally who could make that determination a reality.


However, the Great Council found a man who could bridge the gap between king and reality.  John Digby the Earl of Bristol was that man, despite his run-ins with Charles during and after the comings and goings of the Spanish Match all those years ago and his royal persecution that had followed. Bristol understood something of his king’s complicated mindset, and led a moderate majority of peers, gently suggesting that although it might be desirable to bring the Scots to their knees

We must now speak of the business as to men that have gotten the advantage

I am struck here by the use of the word gotten, a word I have reviled as an ugly modern invention, but which I now find, like Scotch, that it actually represents an older tradition. I am appalled. Charles was persuaded that there must be discussions with the Scots, and was mollified and soothed by Bristol’s promise to find an honourable solution, and if a dishonourable one was all that was offered, sir, he would be

Obliged….in honour and duty to preserve and defend the kingdom

He was also persuaded to appoint a commission to discuss a treaty with the Scots. Council quietly accepted the real reality rather than the optimistic one, and appointed a commission largely composed of peers acceptable and sympathetic to the Scots. They met at the lovely Yorkshire city of Ripon, and hammered out a deal. The deal accepted that the Scots would continue to hold the counties of Northumberland and Durham, but advance no further. They would be paid £850 a day to maintain their army. At first glance this looks like the English paying for the privilege of being hit in the face; but from Charles’ point of view he was desperate to avoid further military humiliation and the loss of York. And from the Reformers’ point of view having a Scottish army in the north of England was the only realistic way they had of forcing Charles to make concessions; Pym and the Reformers  were closely tied to the Scots, and needed them; from their point of view £850 a day was cheap at the price.

For Strafford, defeat did not come easily. When Lord Keeper Finch encouragingly described it as a ‘hopeful treaty’ he ripped into him and had a rant saying he could bring over his Irish army at two days notice. Bristol calmly asked him if he could then assure a victory against the Scots; and Strafford was forced to mumble into his ‘tache that he couldn’t guarantee any such thing. And so the Treaty of Ripon was signed on 26th October, and the parliament set for 9th November, everyone packed up, and set off for home.

The whole council of York affair is interesting; sorry to refer to Conrad Russell again, but the man had a brain on him and no mistake; he remarked that the Council took the view that the king could simply not be sensible and therefore the peers needed to do what was required with or without the king – Russell called it the start of

A habit of carrying on government as if the king was incapacitated

This is a habit the Long Parliament will continue.

Back in London, everyone’s emotions had been up and down like a yo yo. When news of the defeat at Newburn had come through, there was something akin to panic. Extra guns appeared on the Tower and fortifications at Whitehall, there was Scottish propaganda everywhere. When news of the calling of parliament came through, just like last year there was a great surge of joy. Lettice Goring, wife of the future royalist general George Goring, wrote to her dad, Richard Boyle, the Earl of Cork. Richard Boyle was another firm enemy of Strafford and his government of Ireland, describing Strafford as

A most cursed man to all Ireland and to me in particular

Lettice was in London, and she wrote

I cannot express to your lordship how much the city is overjoyed at the news of a parliament

Surely king, Lords and Commons assembled could finally get the ship of state back onto an even keel, with spot of common sense and goodwill.

[1] Jackson, C: ‘Devil-land’, p236

[2] Healy, J: ‘The Blazing World’, p119

[3] Harris, T: ‘Rebellion’ p385

[4] Healey, J: ‘The Blazing World’, p121

[5] Lincoln, M: ‘London and the 17th Century’, p92

[6] Childs, J: ‘The Siege of Loyalty House’, pp36-43

[7] Hopper, A: ‘Thomas Saville’, ODNB

2 thoughts on “372 Go On Vigorously

  1. This is getting a little ahead of the narrative, but were Strafford’s efforts on Charles’ behalf in 1640 specifically where Strafford began figuratively to write his own death warrant?

    1. I was also interested in this question; I think it’s probably as Lord lieutenant of Ireland that he began to worry some (the Irish petition for Strafford’s execution for example); I can understand why those in the political know get worried about him in the 1640s as you say; but in the popular mind I think it’s a bit benusing that he becomes such a hate figure. I’d love to be a specialist to investigate exactly how that happens

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